Arthur Penn : Themes, Variants, Images & Words
Penn had had such success with « Bonnie and Clyde, » and then again with « Alice’s Restaurant, » that his western was eagerly awaited, and generally praised upon release. So besides a retrospective look at Penn’s career, we also get to see Penn directing LBM, and eavesdrop on his direction of Hoffman in particular. As well, we see scenes from his own life, including a hilarious reading, with his children, of a Mark Twain short story involving farts, whose title I can’t remember, and have never heard since. I was disappointed to NOT see this as an extra when LBM was released on DVD, and hope to see it later in a Penn retrospective. Not all of Penn’s films work as well as he hoped they would; too often, he allows his actors to over-use their method chops, when a more textual approach would serve the film better; too often, he wanders off into art-film territory for no really good reason other than artistic self- indulgence, sacrificing story and character for mood and effect which don’t add up to anything. But he’s a hell of an interesting director, one of the 1950s-60s originals, and not much talked about these days. If you can ever get to see this film, it’s a great introduction to Penn and his work.